Klaus Erfort – Purism at Its Best

It’s been a long time since I last visited the Gästehaus Erfort in Saarbrücken, and in my view the changes are subtle but nevertheless fundamental. To be sure, the wonderful Saarberg Villa is still a gem, especially in Summer when it allows you to start the meal on the fantastic terrace. Also, the service under mâitre Jerôme Pourchère works seamless but also with great respect for the diner and authentically warm-hearted. But Klaus Erfort himself, despite his other projects like the Hotel Fuchs oder the Schlachthof Brasserie, he is really ‘present’ in the kitchen and has further refined his own style: first and foremost it’s puristic, it is sooo focused that the flavors are razor sharp and one cannot augment or reduce the dish, it’s near perfection.

Gästehaus Erfort
Gästehaus Erfort
The entrance to the villa
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Restaurant Tim Raue – Unique!

I am a fan. Period. I am a big fan of Tim Raue since his days at 44 in the Swissotel, MA in the Adlon complex and now at Restaurant Tim Raue. His cuisine evolved gradually towards a very idiosyncratic cuisine – today, there are few high-end restaurants with this definite style and overall philosophy. In a nutshell, his cuisine is an assemblage of Chinese flavors, Thai aromas and Japanese product philosophy whereas he curtailed the previously sometimes too spicy accents, allowing him to elaborate his intricate sweet-sour dialogues to even greater advantage.

Tim Raue (copyright Wolfgang Stahr)

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Gustav – Authentic-Regional and Yummy

Frankfurt – When Milica and Matthias Scheiber announced to open a second restaurant after their first venture Weinsinn turned out to be a tremendous success expectations were clearly high. Despite the fact that bistronomic concepts are still quite rare in German, the Scheibers did not just clone their Weinsinn but opted for a family concept, with the younger brother Gustav being more progressive in design and more down-to-earth in its clearly regional philosophy.

Hello Gustav

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OAD Dinner (Top100 European Restaurants)

Some stories are there to be told…

… the PAST: one about my personal history with OAD (Opinionated about Dining)…

… the PRESENT: one about the friendship and professionalism of seven chefs serving the OAD Top100 European Restaurants 2014 diner in Brussels last Monday…

… the FUTURE: and, finally, one about the future of fine dining that already shined through at the OAD diner…

The PAST

When I started to get interested in fine dining in a serious way I came across some forums that discussed the latest trends, shared experiences and gave advice from an international perspective. Among them was Steve Plotnicki’s Opinionated about Dining where I found similar minds to share my passion. It was here that, in 2005, I posted about German fine dining and asked why no-ones writes about the German scene. Steve answered that there is nobody to promote those restaurants and the consensus was that German fine dining was a mere copy of French haute cuisine. So, as a matter of fact my whole blogging mission was born out of this OAD threat as I want to showcase and portrait the German fine dining scene, first on the site highendFOOD (that miraculously now belongs to the you-know-who of the German culinary world) and now under this new endeavor culinary-insights.de.

OAD Top100 European Restaurants.

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Amador 2014 – Impressive!

Juan Amador is one of Germany’s greatest chefs. Naturally so, you could think, as he carries three prestigious Michelin stars. But, there is more to it – he is emotional, controversial, thought-provoking and strives for perfection. Moreover, his cooking shows a unique handwriting… Let’s see how he is doing these days….

After the closure of his Langen restaurant, he moved his whole team to Mannheim in August 2011 where he had been operating his second restaurant Amesa. Located in the former Schildkröt area, the restaurant is a bit hidden and only accessible via the Metro parking lot. Entering from there the restaurant is in the left right corner…

Enter the Amador world…

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Carmelo Greco – the best Italian ‘place’ in Germania?

Don’t you have that single restaurant where you always feel at home? People taking care of you? Splendid food? Yes, I think everyone of us foodies has that second living room, somehow, somewhere.

Mine is fortunately in Frankfurt, my hometown. It’s an Italian ‘place’, well, Italian in the best sense when it comes to hospitality with natural warmth. It’s Carmelo Greco’s new Ristorante in Sachsenhausen:

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Anders Superior – classic but anders (different)!

To be independent is strong urge for young and aspiring chefs, but very often, especially in Germany, the financial obstacles seem to be insurmountable. It’s too well known that high-end restaurants are hardly profitable and that one needs some cross-subsidizing from other sources, be it a regional restaurant, hotel rooms or catering. Some German chefs have even managed to create a personal brand building on their TV presence and popularity – needless to say, the Lafers or Schuhbecks are good chefs but their emphasis is not only on their Michelin-starred outlets.

Anders auf dem Turmberg

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Tramin: The Talented Mr Schimkowitsch

Bistronomic restaurants are seldom to be found in Germany – besides the meanwhile established and Michelin-starred Weinsinn and the Schaumahl in Offenbach along with some newer concepts in Berlin the German gastronomic ladder is missing some intermediate steps that could facilitate the climb-up, especially for younger and less experienced but interested diners.

Tramin Exterior

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Christian Scharrer: (German) Rusticality Refined

Travemünde has more to offer than the fabulous two star La Belle Epoque where chef Kevin Fehling is at the forefront of a new generation of young German to be aware of. Literally across the street, the A-Rosa Grand SPA Resort and its gourmet restaurant Buddenbrooks offer a quite different take on fine dining, yet not necessarily a worse one.

The Chef

Here, Christian Scharrer impressively proves that he is back on the block, maybe even stronger than ever. After his formidable time at the Schloßhotel Bühlerhöhe where he was awarded 18 points in the Gault Millau and also elected chef of the year 2005 he somehow needed a break in the Frankfurt Airport Club before he started at the AROSA two years ago.

Christian Scharrer

Another great chef from Baden, Scharrer grew up with his grandparents having a local restaurant (“Gasthaus”) and a small farm so that his way into gastronomy was kind of pre-determined. A couple of important chefs are on his CV: his first post was at the Colombi hotel in Freiburg where Alfred Klink served as a tough but technically very elaborate and advanced master. He moved on to work for Jörg Müller in Sylt and, most importantly, as a sous-chef of Harald Wohlfahrt at the Schwarzwaldstube to name just the most important stints he served. So, utmost precision and product excellence can be expected…

The Restaurant

Buddenbrooks is located in the Lübeck room of the former Kurhaus which is now part of the AROSA complex: huge and impressive at first sight but still comfortable and not intimidating, for me a place to feel at home immediately. But, I have to admit I am big fan of Jugendstil interior with high ceilings, stucco and the like…

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Bistronomics in Germany: Weinsinn (Frankfurt)

Bistronomics, those nice little bistro-style outlets where high-end cuisine is served is not a totally new phenomenon – in 2008 when in Barcelona I had a couple of splendid meals at places like Gresca and Embat. Around the same time, in France new culinary hotspots emerged, yet with a distinct edge against any dogmatism so present in the usual guides, lobbying a “no rules” approach to dining and emphasizing both the emotional and culinary aspects of dining out. Early in 1999 the ‘fooding’ term had been coined by the food journalist Alexandre Cammas, a new art word stemming from ‘food’ and ‘feeling’ which then, in 2000, led to the founding of the ‘le fooding’ restaurant guide together with Emmanuel Rubin. In a nutshell, it’s all about democratizing fine dining.

Meanwhile, in Paris: an armada of restaurants were ready to challenge conventional French snobbery and luxury dining, among them places like Frenchie, Saturne, Le Chateaubriand, Rino, Yam’Tcha*, La Bigarrade** or Passage 53**, to name but a few. Even though they are not hunting the stars, some of them receive them, with the second star for Passage 53 being recently awarded in this year’s Guide Rouge. And most importantly, this does not lead to changes in the concept or catapulting prices: at La Bigarrade, the 12-course tasting is still at reasonable 65€/85€ (lunch/dinner), at Le Chateubriand the five-course mystery menu is still at 45€, despite being number 9! (and thus the best restaurant in France) on the polarizing San Pellegrino list. To take a long story short, given the only minor developments at the top Michelin places in France in recent years, the music plays at these vibrant, cool, young and fun neo-bistros where ‘fine dining’ is so successfully re-defined as those places are hard to get a table at. And, the idea spreads to Denmark (Relœ) and Belgium (Neptune, Veranda)…

And Germany? There seems to be some hope for food enthusiasts looking for a excellent fare at reasonable prices as two Amador disciples have begun to cook in a neo-bistro manner, André Rickert at Weinsinn in Frankfurt and Christoph Kubenz at Schaumahl in Offenburg (where no Frankfurter would normally set a step, but it’s worth it). But, and that is gratifying, they are not pure copyists of the French, but very distinct and unique protagonists of a maybe developing German bistronomic scene… Let’s see how Rickert is doing lately at Weinsinn…

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